July 2015 Wine Guy: Rounding up seasonal tastes, picks on varieties

WEB Beaver Creek Volunteers 7-15

ABOVE: Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center volunteers at their fundraiser. L to R: Karen Henry, Paula and Jay Patterson, Tom Butch, Jim Kerr, Darlene Naukam, John Ferrante, Kathy Cattrell. Metro Monthly electronic image by John Webster.

By JOHN WEBSTER | Metro Monthly Wine Columnist

This month, I have lots of wine tastings to report on, including numerous dinner tastes and a fundraiser, plus the always-fun store get-togethers.

In early spring, I attended the Cork & Cap dinner taste at the lovely Trumbull Country Club in Warren. We were greeted at our table with a glass of Grandin Methode Traditionelle Brut from France ($14.99). The Grandin Brut is a crisp blend of Chardonnay, Columbard, Ugniblanc, and Chenin Blanc, producing a bright fruit-tinged bubbly that was outstanding with our antipasto selection of meats and cheeses.

Our second course of seared sesame tuna over pineapple and avocado relish was paired to a 2013 Letitia Estate Chardonnay from California. The Letitia delivers delicious Bosc pear and citrus fruit flavors leading to a melon-tinged finish that worked wonderfully with the sesame tuna.

A 2013 Joel Gott Pinot Noir from California was our first red sample. It was poured to go with our third entree of arancini con fungi (stuffed rice balls with mushrooms) with roasted red peppers drizzled with shaved parmesan cheese. The spicy cherry fruit flavors of this Pinot Noir paired nicely with this flavorful dish.

Our fourth course of honey mustard-glazed chicken set atop a homemade buttermilk biscuit was served with a glass of 2013 Sobon Estate Fiddletown Zinfandel. This palate-pleasing combination of food and wine was simply outstanding with the dusty spice-tinged cherry fruit flavors of this Zin were a seamless match for the delicious chicken confit entree.

A 2012 Roth Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Alexander Valley was chosen to go with our final main dish of braised short ribs drizzled in a wine reduction sauce. This rich tasty dish needed a bold red to go with it, and the Roth Estate Cab filled the bill. Dark red fruit flavors and a spicy chocolate-tinged finish went hand in hand with the tender short ribs.

Dessert was a tall shot glass of chocolate mousse topped with sliced strawberries, pairing nicely with both the Fiddletown Zin and the Roth Estate Cab.

I want to thank Cork & Cap and the staff of the Trumbull Country Club for a wonderful evening of food and wine.

On April 25, I attended the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center’s annual fundraiser wine taste. I’ve covered this fun event for a number of years, and I’m always impressed by the all-volunteer staff and what a fantastic job they do. This year, they had a number of great wines to go with their tasty appetizers and desserts.

I started off with a glass of Piccolo Tesoro IGT Moscato from Sicily. This new-to-the-area sweet Moscato is just plain refreshing to drink. It would be perfect with a fruit salad on a warm summer afternoon.

Another great summer-style wine was the Chateau St. Michelle 2013 Columbia Valley Riesling. Slightly off-dry with apple and pear flavors, it was just the answer to my selection of artisan cheeses.

For those looking for something on the drier side, the staff was pouring the 2012 Entwine Chardonnay from California. These reasonably-priced wines are featured on the Food Network and are a good choice for large parties and get-togethers.

My first red wine was the Entwine 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon produced from California fruit. Textbook Cab fruit flavors lead to a lush finish that is surprisingly long for this wine’s price point.

The Columbia Crest 2012 Columbia Valley Merlot was my next red wine choice. Made from cool-climate fruit, this lush yet crisp-tasting Merlot is a joy to drink. Grilled chicken would be a great partner for this supple red wine.

For dessert, I chose a sample of Ferrante Cranberry fruit wine, loaded up with more cheese, and took a seat in the bird observation room. Ferrante produces some of the nicest fruit wines in Ohio, delicious with artisan cheeses or at the end of a meal with a cup of coffee or tea.

During the event, organizers made a short presentation recognizing several people, and I was surprised with a certificate of lifetime membership in the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center Volunteers Association. I was very touched by the gesture, and must say that the volunteers who give their time year-round are the ones to be thanked for their efforts in making this a must-see destination – both enjoyable and educational for all ages.

For more information about Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center and its Volunteers Association, visit their website at beavercreekwildlife.org, their Facebook page (Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center) – and by all means, their wonderful facility. Special thanks to Karen Henry at the Education Center and Ted Delpra of Tri-County Wine Distributors.

My next tasting took me to Station Square Ristorante in Liberty to sample the Wente Brothers Family Vineyards line of wines. This classic California winery was founded in 1883, and is still family owned and run. Wente’s Midwest regional sales manager Paula Witkowski was the featured presenter, pouring and explaining her wines to our energetic group of wine aficionados. Witkowski knows her Wente wines very well, and has a down-to-earth way of explaining their attributes.

Station Square owner and Chef Ottavio Musumeci prepared a choice of 13 meals from 13 regions of Italy (all under $12) to accompany the wines.  I chose an entree originating in the Lake Como, Lombardy region. The Pollo Quattro Stagioni chicken (sautéed with vegetables in wine sauce) worked very well with all of the wines poured at this event.

With numerous trays of delicious appetizers available, we were poured our first sample of Wente’s 2011 Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc from Livermore Valley. Classic Sauvignon Blanc fruit flavors coupled with a long melon-tinged finish worked nicely with the tasty appetizers.

Our next selection is no stranger to this column. The 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay from Livermore Valley is produced from the original “Wente clone” that dates back to the winery’s founding. This consistently fine Chardonnay is just fun to drink with great food or all by itself.

The Rivas Ranch 2012 Single-Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey, Calif. was our next red sample, and it proved to be California Pinot at its best. Bright cherry and strawberry flavors led to a spicy long finish that was delicious with the chicken entree.

Next in line for sampling was Wente’s estate-grown 2011 Sandstone Merlot. Ultra-smooth textured red fruit flavors and a long, supple finish reminded me of much costlier Merlots I’ve tasted – this one’s only $17.99.

Wente’s estate-grown 2012 Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon was our final wine sample. This well-priced Cabernet offers lush, textured red fruit flavors leading to a coffee- and spice-tinged finish that goes on forever.

I want to thank Wente’s Paula Witkowski as well as Ottavio Musumeci and the expert staff of Station Square for a wonderful evening of food and wine.

On April 28, I attended “Mobsters, Molls and Marinara,” a murder mystery dinner theater presentation at the Springfield Grille in Boardman. The Mystery’s Most Wanted theater group from Pittsburgh staged their play as we ate, and it was very entertaining.

As the play started, we were poured our first glass of wine to go with our Burrata Mozzarella (fresh cheese) entrée. The Cassa Lilliana 2013 Pinot Grigio Good from Italy worked nicely with the cheese, which was served with parmesan crostini, olive tapenade and tomato salad with infused basil olive oil. The wine’s green apple and apricot flavors combined with a bracing mineral-tinged finish had our table asking for another glass. The Cassa Lilliana Pinot Grigio is a great choice for summer salads and lighter fare.

Paired to a glass of Napa Valley’s Ca’moni 2013 Merlot, our main course was beef braciola. The fork-tender braised rolled beef served over ricotta gnocchi was just outstanding with the Ca’moni Merlot. Classic textured red fruit flavors and a lush, clean finish make this well-priced Merlot a joy to drink.

Pannacotta (Italian cooked cream) with blood orange glaze and fresh strawberries was presented as our final course, along with a glass of 2012 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore DOC. The ripe red fruit and berry flavors of the Zenato paired nicely with the rich pannacotta. Thanks to the Mystery’s Most Wanted group as well as Springfield Grille’s wine manager Tom Smith and the rest of the outstanding staff for a wonderfully entertaining evening.

My final dinner taste on May 17 took me to Vernon’s Cafe for the Cork & Cap wine shop’s “A Taste of Tuscany” featuring Conti Sebastiano Capponi and his Conti Capponi Villa Calcinaia selection of fine wines. The Villa Calcinaia estate is located in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Visiting as part of his current U.S. tour, Conti Capponi made an initial informative presentation of his wines and the vineyard’s history dating back to 1524. He was very generous with his time, visiting every table and engaging everyone in conversation.

After filling our plates with Tuscan antipasti, we were given a glass of the 2012 Villa Calcinaia Comitale Bianco. The Comitale is a tasty blend of Grechetto (90 percent) and Vernaccia (10 percent), producing a rich yet crisp white that finishes nicely with a touch of stony minerality. I’m a big fan of Grechetto- based wines, and this is one of the best ones I’ve ever tried.

Our first red wine was the 2011 Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico. It was served with a hearty plate of Garganelli (wide noodle) pasta. Ruby red in color with bright cherry flavors, it finishes long and clean. It was made to order for the rich pasta dish.

Tuscan chicken over creamy rice with roasted vegetables was our third course, and it was paired to Villa Calcinaia’s delicious 2009 Chianti Classico Reserva. Hands down, this is one of the finest Reservas I’ve sampled, and it’s in a relatively affordable price range (especially for special occasions) at $36.99.

Hand harvested and rich ruby red in color, it features lush velvety red fruit flavors and finishes long with a hint of spicy tobacco.

If you’re looking for a great wine gift, try a bottle of the 2008 Villa Calcinaia Casarsa Merlot. This super-Tuscan red was poured to accompany Vernon’s tender Florentine steak. The Casarsa Merlot exudes rich ripe dark fruit flavors that lead to a deeply textured finish that seems to last forever. It was a seamless match for the outstanding steak.

Our final dessert course of almond biscotti was served with a glass of the 2006 Villa Calcinaia Vin Santo. This is one of the richest Vin Santos I’ve ever sampled. Golden honey in color with velvety resinous apricot flavors, it has a long, persistent finish.

Thanks to Cork & Cap’s Nick and Loretta Urosevo for making this enjoyable visit with Conte Sebastiano Capponi possible.

On May 9, I attended Cork & Cap’s Saturday wine taste. They were featuring the Michael David winery line of California wines, and I found a couple of real gems to report on. My first pick was the Michael David 6th Sense Syrah ($13.99 on sale from $19.99). With a dab of Petite Sirah added for complexity, this Syrah just oozes ripe blackberry fruit flavors. Firm tannins hold this lush textured fruit bomb together, making it very enjoyable. Steaks hot off the grill would be a great match for this tasty red.

My next pick was the Michael David Petite Petit ($13.99 on sale from $19.99) blend of 85 percent Petite Sirah and 15 percent Petit Verdot. Nearly opaque, this rich dark fruit- and berry-tinged wine is just the answer for burgers on the patio this summer.

My next store tasting was on May 16 at Boardman’s Vintage Estate Wine and Beer shop. This month, they featured Italian wines from numerous regions from north to south. My first pick from the southern Campania region was the 2013 Beneventano Grand Passione White ($12.99) made from 100 percent Falanghina grapes. Named after the wooden stakes (falangae) used to support the vines, this ancient variety is thought to have origins in Greece. Very fruity with apple and pear flavors, this mineral-tinged white is a perfect match for summer seafood dinners.

The Abruzzo region of Italy is the source of my next pick. Made from 100 percent Montepulciano grapes, this deeply colored red wine has ripe red fruit flavors coupled with firm tannins, producing a fantastic red wine. Standing rib roast or barbecued ribs would be just the answer for this wine.

Upcoming regular tastings include the Upstairs Restaurant’s Wine Down, third Thursday tasting; Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland, every Saturday; Barrel 33, every other week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Vintage Estate, third Saturday tasting; and Cork & Cap second Saturday tasting. If your restaurant, shop or charity event is having an upcoming wine tasting, please email me a month in advance at wineguy@metromonthly.net 

WEB Conti Capponi & Nick Uroseva 7-15

ABOVE: Conti Sebastiano Capponi of Tuscany, Italy with Nick Uroseva of Cork & Cap. Metro Monthly electronic imaeg by John Webster.

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